Ghanaian Cuisine & Language

Monday, March 5, 2012

Akwaaba! Welcome!

On Wednesdays I have a class with a Ghanaian man who has been teaching us about Ghanaian culture and a bit of Akan Twi, the Ghanaian language spoken in Accra among members of the Akan tribe. While I was living in Budapest I took a Hungarian class which I thought was really difficult because it's not related to any other languages and there's no Latin cognates. Twi (pronounced chwee) is ridiculous and makes Hungarian look like child's play. Twi is tonal and has 15 vowels (oral and nasal). To make things more complicated they even make clicking noises with their mouth to communicate!!! One click means yes, two clicks mean no, and three clicks indicates extreme dislike and disapproval. There's also two letters we don't have in English - ɛ and ɔ. Interestingly enough, English is the only official language since Ghana was formerly a British colony known as the Gold Coast. Most Ghanaians speak English and then a handful of African languages.

There's one word we use frequently in class that if said in the wrong tone means a dirty word in Twi. Needless to say, my classmates and I are Twi tone-deaf, so there's no telling what we are actually saying! Google translate (which I thought was all knowing) can't even translate into Twi and I've yet to find an online Twi/English dictionary that works well. I've been told to speak as much Twi as possible even if I sound like an idiot...check! Here are a few Akan phrases I've learned...and hopelessly butcher.

Yεfrε wo sεn? (yeh fray woe sane) - What is your name?
Wo ho te sεn? (woe ho tee sane) - How are you?
Wo fri hen? (woe free hen) - Where are you from?
Me pee akɔkɔ (may pay ah coco) - I like chicken.

My favorite Twi word is adamfo which sounds kind of like "a damn fool!" but means friend ;)

Ghanaian feast!
Ghanaian dishes are starch based and common staples are rice, fufu (looks like a doughy paste and tastes kind of like mashed potatoes), and banku (cassava dough). Beans, plaintains, and soups/stews are also typical. From what our teacher has told us, Ghanaians eat almost everything with their hands, even soup! I am really excited to try the palm wine. Apparently there are some palm trees you can literally tap and a milky/coconut alcoholic beverage comes out that is made from the sap. It continues fermenting after it comes out of the tree, especially in the heat. So if you are drinking palm wine outside it will ferment in your glass and in your stomach, and thirty minutes later you're drunk as a (Ghanaian?) skunk.

T-minus 5 days: 4 exams, 1 paper, lots of shopping, and 50 pounds of luggage to pack! 

Beans, chicken, rice with tomato sauce, fried plantains, and salad
Peanut ginger soup - DELICIOUS! Actually made from peanut butta
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